Sacked Duke Nukem PR explains fatal Twitter gaffe

Sacked Duke Nukem PR explains fatal Twitter gaffe

The one man behind one-man-band PR agency The Redner Group has spoken out about how one ill-advised Tweet lost him the Duke Nukem Forever account and possibly much more.

It’s a cautionary tale about how using such an immediate and open medium, particularly when you have a bee in your bonnet, isn’t such a great idea.

Jim Redner, who to all intents and purposes is The Redner Group, has decided to take the offer of the guest columnist spot on Wired‘s web site to put his case. And we’re not entirely sure that was a great move either. For himself or his industry.

I’m pretty sure if you’re smart enough to be reading this, you’re smart enough to realise that the entire tech Public Relations industry is populated by smooth-talking chancers who are employed to grease wheels and rub palms with journalists and editors in order to garner favourable reviews for the products of the companies they represent.

Those embroiled in the industry tread a fine line between promotional activity and outright bribery with a currency of free swag, five-star hotels and first-class flights replacing the brown envelopes of cash which would be very much against the law.

PR departments and agencies by their very nature get to pick and choose who gets to review a product, whether that be the latest must-have tablet PC or a new game. And it’s normally those outside the loop – those not on the very exclusive lists for product distribution – who complain the loudest.

How many times have you heard tech hacks criticising Apple for only sending review models of new hardware to a select band of ‘tame’ journalists? And how stupid would it be for Cupertino’s PR department to send out top secret new products to those who have a history of criticising the company and exposing its carefully cultured veil of silence?

It’s not fair, but then there’s no democracy in PR. It’s a well-known fact that people who bad-mouth a product either in the press or online are unlikely to receive any more free products from that company.

And that’s where Redner went very, very wrong. Rather than biting his tongue and quietly removing the offending journalist (we still don’t officially know who it was but we have our suspicions) from his Christmas list, Redner committed the cardinal sin and vented his spleen on a very public forum.

His fatal message of Twitter read:

too many went too far with their reviews… we r reviewing who gets games next time and who doesn’t based on today’s venom

For someone who professes to be a seasoned PR professional of ten years’ standing, it’s a pretty major gaffe as Redner himself admits.

“It was a brain fart of epic proportions that registered on the social media Richter scale,” he confesses in his Wired column.

Despite the obvious plurality in the message, that “too many” had gone too far with their “reviews”, and the fact that you would be hard pushed to find a single good review among the avalanche of critical outpourings for the much-delayed game, Redner is now trying to pin his career-destroying diatribe on a single bad write-up.

“I was working late and received an e-mail from my former client, 2K, asking if I had seen one particularly negative review of Duke Nukem.” he writes. “I would like to stress that the e-mail from 2K only pointed out the diatribe. The e-mail did not contain covert instructions on how to post something insidious on Twitter.

“I overreacted when I read the review and I vented on Twitter. It was an act of passion on my part that lacked objectivity. In my opinion, someone had gone over the top to attack the game and those who spent their lives trying to make it. Ultimately, I committed a cardinal sin in marketing.”

Unfortunately for Redner, that Tweet was picked up by a number of news outlets (including thinq_) before he reconsidered and deleted it shortly after sending, and went pretty much viral.

It’s a stern lesson for those working in marketing who take advantage of the power of the likes of Twitter and Facebook. These may be great tools for getting a message across to the great unwashed, but it can also make you look like a tool if you get it wrong, which Redner undoubtedly did.

Those of us who work within media circles are well aware of the way marketing and its machinations work. Promotional PR is a necessary evil which, if it is to work properly, should be invisible to the general public.

Redner made the mistake of flapping his own industry’s dirty undies in the face of a very public forum and is now paying the price for his angry and ill-judged tirade. The fact that his Wired column goes even further to expose the murky inner workings of the PR and marketing industries won’t do him any favours either.

Some people just don’t know when to shut up and cut their losses.

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